Boston, MA- Administrators for Harvard Law School have agreed to revise their sexual harassment policy after an investigation by the Department of Education found they mishandled complaints of sexual harassment and assault.
The DOE concluded in their investigation that Harvard Law School was in violation of Title IX, which protects a person from gender discrimination
According to the investigation, school administrators gave more rights to the accused than the accused. Students facing expulsion or suspension were allowed to call witnesses during the supplemental hearing process, but that same right was denied to the accusers, according to the Huffington Post.
The investigation concluded that Harvard Law School’s policies did not allow for a prompt and fair response to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
Investigators also found that administrators mishandled two cases of sexual assault. In one incident the Huffington Post reported on, a person accused of sexually assaulting a student was allowed to have counsel and call witnesses in a supplemental hearing, but the victim was not allowed to do the same.
By not treating alleged perpetrators and victims the same, a school (or employer), discourages victims from coming forward with allegations. Victims don’t think their allegations will be taken seriously, and many times they aren’t, so they see no use in coming forward. This allows the problem to continue and can sometimes get worse and culminate in a assault or rape.
As part of their agreement with the DOE, Harvard Law School has agreed to completely overhaul their sexual harassment policies which the Washington Post reports will establish a uniform standard for receiving and addressing complaints. The school will also adopt the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for proving allegations of sexual harassment which is in line with the DOE’s policies.
This conclude one the longest-running Title IX investigations of a university, but 2013 was a busy year for the Department of Education. In June of last year, the federal agency announced they would be investigating 55 different colleges and universities for their handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations.
Last year, a White House task force was set up to combat sexual harassment, assault and rape on college campuses and in the military in response to statistics showing how often workers and students are subjected to this abuse. According to a White House report, 36 percent of all women in the U.S. will face some sort of sexual abuse at least once in their lifetime.
Colleges and employers should be proactive and adopt policies to deter sexual harassment so they won’t be facing off with a sexual harassment attorney. Ignoring or failing to act on complaint is toxic for the victim and toxic for the school or workplace as a whole. When a sexual harassment complaint goes unaddressed, the victim can turn to the civil courts to get the justice they deserve.